April 29, 2007  ·  Lessig

So when I was talking to others about the petition to the RNC/DNC, I was frankly hesitant just because it seemed so obvious. Why would any network resist? Then I read MSNBC’s rules for the use of its recent debate, and realized (once again) just how clueless I am.

As reported by Jeff Jarviz at BuzzMachine (and cross posted at Prezvid), here’s MSNBC’s regulation of the use of video of the Democratic debate:

USAGE RULES FOR USE OF AUDIO OR VIDEO OF MSNBC MATERIAL RULES FOR “THE SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES DEBATE” FROM MSNBC:

(The following rules apply to all media organizations that are not part of NBC)

News organizations, including radio, network television, cable television and local television may use excerpts of “The South Carolina Democratic Candidates Debate” subject to the following restrictions (internet use is not permitted):

1. An unobstructed onscreen credit “MSNBC” must appear during each debate excerpt and remain on screen for the entire excerpt.

2. Each debate excerpt must be introduced with an audio credit to MSNBC.

3. No excerpt may air in any medium until the live debate concludes at 8:30 pm ET.

4. No more than a combined total of 2 minutes of excerpts may be chosen for use during the period from the end of the live debate (8:30 pm ET) until 1:00 am ET on Friday, April 27. After 1:00 am ET, Friday, April 27, a total of 10 minutes may be selected (including any excerpts aired before 1:00AM). The selected excerpts may air as often as desired but the total of excerpts chosen may not exceed the limits outlined.

5. No excerpts may be aired after 8:30 pm on Saturday, May 26th. Excerpts may not be archived. Any further use of excerpts is by express permission of MSNBC only.

6. All debate excerpts must be taped directly from MSNBC’s cablecast or obtained directly from MSNBC and may not be obtained from other sources, such as satellite or other forms of transmission. No portions of the live event not aired by MSNBC may be used.

A feed of MSNBC’s telecast of the debate will be provided (details below), additionally limited audio/video mults will be available on site in the media center.

This is ridiculous. I’m grateful to everyone who wrote to RNC/DNC. I’ve spoken to the DNC. I’ve not yet been able to get the RNC to return a telephone call.

But this issue should move beyond the parties to the candidates. No candidate should agree to be a part of a debate broadcast by an organization that purports to exercise this type of control over the video of the debate. No candidate, that is, that understands this century.

April 27, 2007  ·  Lessig

I was extremely sad to read this morning that Jack Valenti has died.

I met Valenti just about 10 years ago while I was at Harvard. Soon after I met him, he published a piece that was extremely nasty about me. A couple months later, he came to Harvard to debate me. He began by apologizing, marking the piece as the “dumbest” thing he had written.

From that moment on, every moment I was privileged to know the man was also a surprise. He was brilliant, and funny, and extraordinarily generous. We debated four times. In each he was self-deprecating, funny, and very very clever — feigning ignorance where it helped, pouncing when it worked. The last time I saw him was at the premier of Gore’s film in Washington. He pulled me aside, and spent 15 minutes asking about everything in my life.

Our positions on many things could not be more different, though we shared certain, fundamental values. It took him 10 seconds to agree to endorse Creative Commons at our launch. Watch the characteristically Valenti (funny, self-deprecating, but very smart) (and totally exaggerating my role but forgive him for that) here:

Valenti taught me many things. But best among those things was the importance of civility. He was respectful and strong, never demeaning or belittling of those he disagreed with. A conversation with him would not produce converts. But it did, in important ways, produce understanding.

We are all worse off because of his passing, and he will be missed by many. But the model of his life as a man will always be remembered. And taught. At least, by me.

April 25, 2007  ·  Lessig

(UPDATED: New names and blog posts added.)

While many rightly and fairly struggle over genuinely difficult copyright questions, it has been the strategy of some of us to push for solutions to obvious problems first. The place of copyright in political debate is one such obvious problem. Technology has exploded the opportunity for people to comment upon, and spread political speech. Democracy is all about encouraging citizens to participate in that debate. And all of us, whether Democrats or Republicans, should push to remove unnecessary burdens to that participation.

Unfortunately, however, the uncertainty about the scope of copyright regulation is increasingly one such burden on Internet political speech. This next political cycle will see an explosion of citizen generated political content. Some of that speech will be crafted from clips taken from the Presidential debates. Some of that will be fantastically valuable and important. Yet as the law is right now, it is extremely difficult for an ordinary citizen to understand the boundaries of “fair use,” or the limits to copyright law. It is likewise difficult for companies such as YouTube, or Blip.tv. Indeed, it is even difficult for a skilled practitioner. That uncertainty, if not checked, could produce a cloud over much of this political speech, as sites and universities don’t know how much is too much. It will certainly create a temptation by some politicians to invoke copyright law to block particularly effective speech critical of them.

Some friends (old and new) and I are therefore calling upon both major political parties to make this problem go away. Not by changing the law, or by supporting some expensive and time consuming litigation. But instead, by simply promising to require of any network broadcasting Presidential debates (at least) that they license the debates freely after they are initially broadcast — either by putting the debates into the public domain, or by permitting anyone to use or remix the contents of those debates, for any reason whatsoever, so long as there is attribution back to any purported copyright holder. (CC-BY)

I am confident that I won’t like much of what this freedom will engender. But if that were a legitimate reason to regulate political speech, this would be a very different world. We should all, regardless of our political persuasion, be encouraging a wide ranging debate about our political future. And we all need to hear more from those with whom we disagree.

I am also hopeful that those typically on the other side of the many debates that we have had about copyright will recognize this proposal as one that strengthens copyright. The last thing a copyright system designed to produce incentives for authors and artists needs is to complicate judgments about “fair use” by accommodating speech that needs no real copyright protection at all. There is incentive enough for politicians to debate, and opportunity enough for broadcasters to carry those debates. We don’t need to add the complexity of a lawyer driven speech regulation into this mix.

Thanks to everyone who signed and helped to get others to sign. Please call the RNC/DNC to add your view. The letters are below. There is a press release here.





Sen. Mel Martinez, General Chairman
Hon. Mike Duncan, Chairman
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 863-8500

Chairmen Martinez and Duncan:

We are writing to request that the Republican National Committee help usher in the next stage of the Internet revolution that has made democracy more accessible to regular people and made politicians more accountable to their constituents.

In this letter, top technologists, grassroots organizations, bloggers, and others are asking the RNC to ensure that all video footage from Republican debates is able to be shared, re-used, and freely blogged about without the uploader of the video being deemed a lawbreaker.

In 1996, presidential candidates communicated on websites for the first time. In 2000, presidential candidates accepted online contributions for the first time. 2004 ushered in a new type of Internet-based people-powered activism.

In 2008, we need to ensure that the promise of online video is not inhibited. In the past, television stations that broadcast presidential debates have retained exclusive rights to debate footage after the event was over. By and large, such contract terms were not noticed by voters, activists, or news junkies – there was no widespread forum for regular people to share video content even if they wanted to.

But in the age of online video sharing, corporations retaining exclusive rights to debate footage is an obvious barrier to democratic participation. No concerned voter should ever be labeled a lawbreaker for wanting to share video of a presidential debate with others.

We, the undersigned, request that the Republican National Committee publicly urge state parties and other Republican debate sponsors to specify in debate contracts that video footage will be put into the public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license – so that after the debate, the video will be free for anyone to access, edit, and share with others with proper attribution.

We ask you to follow the lead of C-SPAN, which this year announced they would allow expanded use of their video content by others – paving the way for a more informed electorate through online video sharing.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss details, we’d be happy to make time for that discussion.

Sincerely,

Lawrence Lessig – Professor, Stanford Law School & Founder, Center for Internet and Society

Craig Newmark – Founder of Craigslist

Jimmy Wales – Founder of Wikipedia

Brad Smith – Former FEC Chair, and current Chair of the Center for Competitive Politics

Michael Turk – Former eCampaign Director, Republican National Committee

Michelle Malkin – Conservative columnist and blogger, and founder of michellemalkin.com and hotair.com

Mike Krempasky – Co-founder of RedState.com

John Hawkins – Right Wing News

Robert Bluey – Bluey Media

David All – TechPresident and founder of The David All Group

Liz Mair – GOP Progress blog

Patrick Ruffini – 2005-2006 RNC eCampaign Director and blogger at PatrickRuffini.com

Matt Margolis – GOP Bloggers and founder of Blogs for Bush

Glenn Reynolds – Professor, University of Tennessee Law, and founder of Instapundit.com blog

Dr. William Greene – President, RightMarch.com

Shari Steele, Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Fred von Lohmann – Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation (Intellectual Property issues)

Tim Wu – Professor, Columbia Law School & Founder of Columbia’s Program on Law & Technology

Cory Doctorow – Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California (post)

Paul Rieckhoff – Executive Director, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

Wade Henderson – President and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Kim Gandy – President, National Organization for Women

Andy Stern – International President, SEIU

Karen Ackerman – Political Director, AFL-CIO (post)

Micah Sifry – Personal Democracy Forum and TechPresident.com

Arianna Huffington – Huffington Post

David Moore – Executive Director, Participatory Politics Foundation and OpenCongress.org

Josh Silver – Executive Director, Free Press

Carol Jenkins – President, The Women’s Media Center

Carl Malamud – Founder of Public.Resource.Org

Roger Hickey – Co-director, Campaign for America’s Future

John Schwartz – Founder of Free Speech TV, and FreeSpeech.org

Paul Jay – CEO, Independent World Television and TheRealNews.com

Helen De Michiel — Co-Director, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture

Nicholas Reville – Co-Founder, Participatory Culture Foundation

Lark Corbeil – Founder & Managing Editor, Public News Service

David Michaelis – Director of Current Affairs, Link TV

Linda Jue – Executive Director, New Voices in Independent Journalism


Chairman Howard Dean
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St. SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 863-8000

Chairman Dean:

We are writing to request that the Democratic National Committee help usher in the next stage of the Internet revolution that has made democracy more accessible to regular people and made politicians more accountable to their constituents.

In this letter, top technologists, progressive grassroots organizations, bloggers, and others are asking the DNC to ensure that all video footage from Democratic debates is able to be shared, re-used, and freely blogged about without the uploader of the video being deemed a lawbreaker.

In 1996, presidential candidates communicated on websites for the first time. In 2000, presidential candidates accepted online contributions for the first time. In 2004, your campaign helped usher in a new type of Internet-based people-powered activism.

In 2008, we need to ensure that the promise of online video is not inhibited. In the past, television stations that broadcast presidential debates have retained exclusive rights to debate footage after the event was over. By and large, such contract terms were not noticed by voters, activists, or news junkies – there was no widespread forum for regular people to share video content even if they wanted to.

But in the age of online video sharing, corporations retaining exclusive rights to debate footage is an obvious barrier to democratic participation. No concerned voter should ever be labeled a lawbreaker for wanting to share video of a presidential debate with others.

The Democratic National Committee recently announced it would sanction six official presidential debates. We, the undersigned, request that no debate get the official sanction of the DNC unless contract terms specify that video footage will be put into the public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license – so that after the debate, the video will be free for anyone to access, edit, and share with others with proper attribution.

We ask you to follow the lead of C-SPAN, which this year announced they would allow expanded use of their video content by others – paving the way for a more informed electorate through online video sharing.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss details, we’d be happy to make time for that discussion.

Sincerely,

Lawrence Lessig – Professor, Stanford Law School & Founder, Center for Internet and Society

Craig Newmark – Founder of Craigslist

Jimmy Wales – Founder of Wikipedia

Brad Smith – Former FEC Chair, and current Chair of the Center for Competitive Politics

Wade Henderson – President and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Paul Rieckhoff – Executive Director, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

Kim Gandy – President, National Organization for Women

Andy Stern – International President, SEIU

Karen Ackerman – Political Director, AFL-CIO (post)

Eli Pariser – Executive Director, MoveOn.org Civic Action

James Rucker – Executive Director, ColorOfChange.org

Markos Moulitsas – Founder of DailyKos.com

Arianna Huffington – Founder of the Huffington Post

David Halperin – Director, Campus Progress & Senior Vice President, Center for American Progress

Alexandra Acker – Executive Director, Young Democrats of America

Roger Hickey – Co-director, Campaign for America’s Future

Josh Silver – Executive Director, Free Press

Carol Jenkins – President, The Women’s Media Center

Shari Steele, Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Fred von Lohmann – Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation (Intellectual Property issues)

Tim Wu – Professor, Columbia Law School & Founder of Columbia’s Program on Law & Technology

Cory Doctorow – Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California

Micah Sifry – Personal Democracy Forum and TechPresident.com

David Moore – Executive Director, Participatory Politics Foundation and OpenCongress.org

Spencer Overton – Professor, GW Law & Founder of Blackprof.com blog

Robert Greenwald – Director, BraveNewFilms

Dan Manatt – Founder of PoliticsTV.com

Duncan Black – Founder of Atrios

Jane Hamsher – Founder of FireDogLake.com

Christy Hardin Smith – Front-page blogger, FireDogLake.com

Matt Stoller – Front-page blogger, MyDD.com

Chris Bowers – Front-page blogger, MyDD.com

David Waldman – Front-page blogger, DailyKos.com

Christopher M. Rabb – Founder and Chief Evangelist, Afro-Netizen

John Amato – Founder of Crooksandliars.com

John Aravosis – Founder of AMERICAblog.com

Don Hazen – Executive Editor, Alternet.org

Lowell Feld – Founder of RaisingKaine.com & former Netroots Coordinator, Webb for Senate (Virginia blog)

Juan Melli – Founder of BlueJersey.com (New Jersey blog)

Mark Nickolas – Publisher, BluegrassReport.org (Kentucky blog)

David Kravitz – Co-founder, BlueMassGroup.com (Massachusetts blog) (post)

Matt Singer – Founder of LeftInTheWest.com & former blogger for Tester for Senate (Montana blog)

Hugh Jackson – Founder of LasVegasGleaner.com (Nevada blog)

Myrna Minx – Founder of RenoDiscontent.com (Nevada blog)

Adam Green – Civic Communications Director, MoveOn.org Civic Action

Jane Fleming Kleeb – Executive Director, Young Voter PAC

Mike Lux – American Family Voices

Nicholas Reville – Co-Founder, Participatory Culture Foundation

Carl Malamud – Founder of Public.Resource.Org

Roz Lemieux – Executive Director, New Organizing Institute

Michael Silberman – Co-Founder and Director, EchoDitto

John Schwartz – Founder of Free Speech TV and freespeech.org

Paul Jay – CEO, Independent World Television and TheRealNews.com

Julie Bergman Sender – Filmmaker, Balcony Films

Garlin Gilchrist II – Blogger, TheSuperSpade.com (post)

Helen De Michiel — Co-Director, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture

Jay Harris – President & Publisher, Mother Jones

Bruce Dixon – Black Agenda Report

Jill Tubman – Publisher, JackAndJill.com politics blog

Frank Emspak – Executive Producer, Workers Independent News

Lark Corbeil – Founder & Managing Editor, Public News Service

Tracy Van Slyke – Publisher, In These Times

Joel Bleifuss – Editor, In These Times

Roberto Lovato – New America Media

David Michaelis – Director of Current Affairs, Link TV

Ty West – Senior Producer, NOW on PBS

Marc Favreau – Editorial Director, The New Press

Ina Howard – Communications Director, The New Press

Linda Jue – Executive Director, New Voices in Independent Journalism

Rinku Sen – Publisher, Colorlines magazine

Siva Vaidhyanathan – New York University, and blogger

Dan Gillmor, Director, Center for Citizen Media

April 25, 2007  ·  Lessig

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iCommons is an entity Creative Commons helped incubate. Its purpose is to enable a platform for commons-related projects from around the world to interact — including A2K, Wikipedia, Free Software, Free Culture Movement and Creative Commons.

One core project of iCommons is an annual summit. The first year was Boston. Last year was Rio. This year is Dubrovnik.

Tomorrow, CC will be launching a special fund-raising drive to raise money to sponsor scholarships to the Summit. Click here to help.

April 13, 2007  ·  Lessig

So one might well wonder whether the copyright system creates sufficient incentives to avoid the bad behavior that was our target in the Shloss case, One so wondering should not forget the possibility of recovering fees, including legal fees. Here’s our motion filed this week, and an Ars Technica article that describes it well.